Report: Some agents pushing Donald Fehr to take over NBA players union

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Remember the 1994 World Series?

Of course you don’t — there wasn’t one. MLB Players had gone on strike that August as owners and players battled over whether there would be a salary cap in baseball. Eventually new commissioner Bud Selig cancelled the playoffs and World Series. A deal wasn’t reached until training camps had opened the next season with replacement players.

But there still is no salary cap in baseball. That lockout and a number of other hard negotiations — including the most recent NHL lockout — were brought to you with Donald Fehr as head of the players union.

Guess who some agents are pushing to replace Billy Hunter as head of the National Basketball Players Association? You guessed it. From Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

Fehr, currently the executive director of the NHL Players Association, is the early preferred pick among multiple agents with enough clout to sway a significant portion of union membership, CBSSports.com has learned.

Fehr, who also has served as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, declined to comment when reached through the NHLPA Monday because Hunter remains in place as executive director. A person familiar with Fehr’s thinking told CBSSports.com that the hockey union chief is happy in his job and “has no plans to leave his position.

Billy Hunter, who has been head of the NBA players union since 1996, is currently on paid leave, placed their by the executive committee in the wake of an independent report that raised a number of ethical issues around Hunter and his running of the union.

A number of agents want Hunter out and that is driven by the last lockout — they thought Hunter went in without a good plan, was too passive and gave up way, way too much in the negotiations (the players used to get 57 percent of league revenue, that is down to just more than 50 percent now). These are agents, people who make their livings as aggressive negotiators, and they want someone who negotiates like them in there. They don’t like Hunter.

The players will vote on that All-Star weekend in a union meeting. There are also seven spots on the union executive committee to be filled and a lot of other questions about a future direction for the union to be answered.

What even bringing up Fehr’s name shows is where the agents are coming from heading into the eventual 2018 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. (That summer either side can opt out of the current deal and you can bet one if not both sides will.) Fehr is a hard negotiator — he treats a sports labor dispute like any labor dispute, like a Longshoreman’s strike or truckers or whatever union you want to name. He is the guy who led collusion charges among baseball owners nearly three decades ago.

He’s not afraid to miss games to achieve his goals. A lot of games. NBA owners and Adam Silver (who will have replaced David Stern as Commissioner by then) will know going in what kind of negotiator they are dealing with.

Fehr may or may not ever become head of the NBA players union. But that his name is being put out there shows where some agents want to take this fight.

Russell Westbrook fined $10,000 for confrontation with Gobert, no suspension

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The rule in the NBA is clear and strictly enforced (just ask Amar’e Stoudemire and the Suns): Leave the bench during an altercation and you get suspended for a game.

Monday night, in the fourth quarter of the chippy game Monday where the Jazz beat the Thunder, Russell Westbrook was set to check into the game when there was a little dust-up between Rudy Gobert in Raymond Felton, and Westbrook came in and escalated it. Did he leave the bench, or was he coming into the game and that’s different.

The NBA decided he was coming into the game already — Westbrook got a $10,000 fine and an after-the-fact technical, but no suspension.

OKC needs Westbrook — and an aggressive Westbrook who is knocking down his midrange shot — to have a chance to avoid elimination in Game 5 Wednesday. The Thunder have had their strengths turned against them, and have not shown the versatility to adjust in this series, and if Westbrook and company cannot change that Wednesday their season will end.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.

 

Celtics to get Marcus Smart back for Game 5 Tuesday

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It’s a series that has hinged on defense — Boston has played it well for the majority of five games, bottling up Milwaukee in the halfcourt. The Bucks only played it with real energy at home (and only for about six of the eight quarters the last two games) but when they do they have overwhelmed the Celtics, then converted turnovers and missed shots into transition and early clock opportunities the other way.

For Game 5 Tuesday night, Boston gets its best perimeter defender back — Marcus Smart. He has been out since before the playoffs following thumb surgery last March.

Stevens, via NBC Sports Boston:

“He hasn’t played in six weeks, so it’s hard to say how much (time he will get) but will certainly play,” Stevens said. Stevens said there would not be a minutes restriction on him, but added that the fourth-year guard wasn’t going to play 35 minutes.

Smart is a very good perimeter defender who is very physical and usually assigned to the other team’s best guard (or wing, depending upon the matchup). When Smart was on the court this season, the Celtics allowed less than a point per possession and were 3.6 points per 100 better defensively than when he sat.

Smart likely will get time against Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton of the Bucks. Just his presence brings needed depth to the Celtics in what is a critical Game 5 in a series tied 2-2.

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over two to three years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.